Still America’s Most Hated Family

Shirley Phelphs-Roper

photo: Dave Schubert

By Francesco Turso

Assistant Editor/ Copy Editor

On January 6, Westboro Baptist Church protested another soldier’s funeral, this time in Bethalto. In response to the news, hundreds of people showed up to support Lance Cpl Kenneth Corzine’s family. This fringe religious group was relatively unknown until 1991 when they began taking a hard stance against homosexuality.

In a 2007 documentary, BBC named Phelps leader of “America’s Most Hated Family.” They shed light on his “brilliant” civil right attorney career which started in 1960. He was well known in Topeka for taking civil rights cases that many would pass on, for this reason many people there find hard to believe his current rhetoric. He has lost many friends throughout the years because of it. Shirley Phelphs-Roper, daughter and most active member of the group, looks up to her father, “He grew up in Mississippi seeing the way they treated black people. He didn’t adopt the same racist beliefs because of the mercy of God.”

Phelphs-Roper was one of four people that showed up at the funeral. She was seen standing on the American flag and holding signs expressing hate. She has long been involved with the affairs of her father. In the court papers disbarring Fred Phelphs in 1979, she was named as the person who threatened the woman who brought forth the complaint. Kansas Supreme Court ultimately disbarred Phelphs stating that “the seriousness of the present case, coupled with previous record, leads this court to the conclusion respondent has little regard for the ethics of his profession.”

Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist organizations, has classified Phelphs church as a hate group. There are about 70 people in the group, most are family members. However not all his family agrees with him. Nate Phelphs is a gay rights activist, and estranged son now atheist, speaks about his father as being racist even while he was a civil rights lawyer. On his online blog he recalls growing up in an abusive environment. “Over the years I was regularly singled out for my misconduct (It was in part due to the fact that I fell asleep so often during his sermon).  Whatever the case, I had more then my share of bloodied noses and bruised cheeks delivered to me by an older sibling in front of the entire congregation and God.”

Phephs-Roper calls Nate, in a CNN article, a “rebel of God” and believes that “this Nation is on a short path to her full final and complete destruction! It will be beautiful and it will be righteous.”

In response to Phelphs-Roper’s message of hate a crowd of hundreds had assembled in spite of the cold. They kept order in the face of hatred. When asked about what he thought of the Westboro Baptist Church and their message of hate, Tony Croxton, a student of Lewis and Clark Community College present at the funeral, replied, “Their attempt to protest the funeral was like throwing a toothpick in a wood chipper. Useless.”

About LC Bridge

The Bridge is the student-run newspaper of Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. We publish relevant, informative stories in a monthly print edition that focus on local events as well as global happenings. In addition, the online edition of The Bridge (thelcbridge) is updated frequently to reflect new information and more timely events.
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